FAILE talks about their new work in Mongolia

“The Wolf Within” in Mongolia

Faile recently returned from a trip to Mongolia sponsored by Tiger Translate, where they unveiled their latest sculptural creation and some street work. Over the past few months, Patrick McNeil and Patrick Miller (aka Faile) have been working closely with Mongolian sculptor Bat Munkh to bring this colossal piece to life in its permanent home. Faile was kind enough to invite me to their studio and talk about their experiences unveiling the sculpture in Mongolia and their thoughts on creating their first permanent piece. – Caroline Caldwell

Patrick Miller: We made this sculpture, which is of an image we did in 2009 called “Eat With the Wolf” and it’s sort of this businessman tearing away a suit, wearing a wolf pelt. He’s placed in their national park, Ulan Bator. Behind the sculpture is this mountain preserve and then he’s looking on to all this new development. So this will all be a grassline, 1600 acre park. It’s wild to have a permanent sculpture in this city.

It’s pretty amazing. It really couldn’t have been a better sort of symbolic thing of what’s happening in Mongolia right now. Basically, they’ve come across all these minerals in mining, copper and gold, and the Russians and the Chinese are descending upon Mongolia to really try and mine the shit out of it. It’s sort like, what’s gonna happen to the city and how will the people actually benefit this? Or will the country just be mined for its resources and kind of left as a shell? So there are a lot of these issues going on there right now, which made this sculpture feel pretty timely.

This image came out of a series we did called “Lost in Glimmering Shadows” and it was sort of imagining if Native Americans had come back to the city today and retaken the land. This image was really about this crisis within of battling between greed and a connection to nature. So we’d been working on this sculpture for awhile on its own with Charlie Becker, who’s a sculptor we work with a lot, and Tiger Translate and the Mongolian Arts Council approached us and asked if we’d be interested in doing a sculpture out there which essentially led to doing that.

Patrick McNeil: We submitted a couple different ideas and this is the one that the arts council kind of gravitated to because of, I think, the wolf symbolism. We did a couple other things but this one just kind of resonated the best. There were a couple pitches that we did that got lost in translation, or it just didn’t make sense with the Mongolian culture.

It was a really tight timeline too, and we already had this sculpted since we’d been working on a miniature version of this one. So with the timeline and everything, this one seemed to make the most sense to execute in the 3 months that we did it in.

Caroline Caldwell: Do you think the Mongolian people will understand the Native American symbolism or do you think they’ll interpret it within their own culture?

McNeil: You know, if you look at their culture, it’s very similar to a lot of the symbols and things that weave through the Native American culture; with wolf being a power animal and horses, the shamanism, and even just the nomadic lifestyle.

Miller: They actually think that the Native Americans came over from Mongolia and Upper Asia. So yeah, I definitely think they’ll have a strong connection with that idea.

Caldwell: Why did you agree to do this project?

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